What does slow fashion really look like facing the everyday realities of time, money and life that gets in the way?
I have looked at my numbers for 2017: what I bought, what I made, how much I spent, how thoughtfully I purchased, the mistakes, the successes. In short, all the nitty-gritty details of an honest, imperfect attempt at making better clothes decisions.
(Pour yourself a cup of coffee because this is a long one.)
How many new items?
20 (including shoes, not counting underwear)
Of those 20 new additions, 2 were bought second hand.
11 were handmade!
How many of the new items were a success?
14 of the new additions were a success.
2 were okay, but not fantastic.
4 were wardrobe flops.
14 out of 20 makes a success rate of 70%. But what about the wardrobe flops?
The wardrobe flops
Looking back at the wardrobe failures, two were due to the trial and error of learning. The edging on the jersey tops I sewed curled after the first wash. That is okay. I want to make my own clothes and keep pushing my skill set, and mistakes are part of that process (however annoying it is to admit it).
One was due to bad decision making. The second hand pair of hiking trousers just don’t fit and I should have faced up to that before I bought them. I could take out the waistband, but I might as well sit it out for a while and see what my body looks like in a year or so.
One was an unforeseen flop. The zero waste jacket didn’t end up being worn. I think, because I sewed it while at the beginning of my pregnancy and I still feel a wave nausea each time I look at it. Weird, I know. I’ll bring it back out when I’m ready.
Were the items sustainably sourced?
The good: 8 items
- The blue Closet Case Patterns Kalle shirt dress sewn in an ethically sourced handwoven cotton bought from Offset Warehouse. (Image at the top of the post, middle of bottom row.)
- Trousers adapted from the True Bias Hudson pant pattern sewn in organic cotton bought from Organic Textile Company. (Image at the top of the post, first row to the right.)
- Wool nighty from Nøstebarn, GOTS certified wool and ethically produced in Europe
- The Asklöv hat knit in Norwegian wool from Rauma (Image at the top of the post, bottom right.)
- The Saltstraumen hat knit in Norwegian wool from Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk. (Image at the top of the post, bottom row, second to the right.)
- The Minetta cardigan knit in breed-specific Norwegian wool from Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk. (Image at the top of the post, bottom row, second to the left.)
- Jacket and hiking trousers bought second hand
The okay: 7 items
- Two leggings and two tops sewn in organic cotton jersey, though produced under unknown working conditions. Leggings adapted from the True Bias Hudson pant pattern. Tops self-drafted. (Images at the top of the post, first row.)
- Dress from Gudrun Sjöden in organic cotton, but produced under unknown working conditions.
- Purple boxy dress sewn in a standard cotton jersey from my stash, pattern from Stoff & Stil. Not ethically sourced fabric, but points for using up what I already had. (Image at the top of the post, bottom left.)
- Winter boots from Ecco. A quality-focused European brand who own most of their supply chain, though I know nothing about the labour and materials that went into these boots.
- Zero waste jacket sewn in a wool/poly blend. While a zero waste pattern reduces textile waste, the fabric was not ethically produced, known-origin nor 100% wool. (Image at the top of the post, first row, second to the right.)
The bad: 5 items
- 2 store-bought jumpers in alpaca, but from unknown origins and produced under unknown working conditions. (Plus, I wouldn’t have bought these if they hadn’t been ridiculously cheap sale items.)
- 1 fast-fashion item bought in a haste
- 1 pair of trainers, not only produced under unknown working conditions but with a sole that probably won’t decompose for another 1,000 years.
How many repairs and refashions?
7 (counting all the darned tights and socks as one.)
- Jeans - sashiko-style knee patch
- Jumper to cardigan refashion
- Second hand jacket - hand-stitched the facing
- Wool camisole - darned
- Socks and tights - darned (lost count of how many)
- Maternity jeans – ripped and reinforced
- Winter boots - repaired at a cobbler
What did it all cost?
I spent 11,100 NOK on clothes and shoes, bought, handmade and repaired last year. That is about €1,155, £1,020 or $1,408 US.
Handmade vs. ready-to-wear
Ready-to-wear items (new and second hand) made up 60% of the total cost of clothes and shoes.
Looking at the number of items per category, the handmade garments were cheaper in average than the ready-to-wear garments. This surprised me, because for most of the handmade items I deliberately tried to source my materials more thoughtfully. While, on the other hand, several of the ready-to-wear items were very cheap.
With this in mind, I realise that making garments myself means quality, ethical fashion is within reach. I thought the cost of ethical fabric would make it unattainable, but really it is finding suitable fabric that is my main challenge. The most expensive handmade item last year was the blue Kalle shirt dress, which added up to 800 NOK (€83, £73, US $101) including pattern, ethically sourced fabric, shipping and taxes. I can live with that. I would rather reduce the number of items than skimp on the fabric.
The repairs gave most value for money, though here the numbers are misleading. I only paid for one repair: the boots I took to the cobbler. For the rest I used materials I already had.
How do you measure slow fashion success?
I added more items and mended fewer than I would have wished. Another question just as relevant as the number of pieces added, is the number of pieces that went out. Where did they go: into storage, donated, thrown out, repurposed as fabric? I didn’t keep track of that. But there certainly were things that went out of my wardrobe last year.
Ideal vs. real
Ideally, all the new additions to my wardrobe last year should have been real wardrobe workhorses and they should all have come from sustainable sources. Ideally. Realistically, I am not there yet.
As a second-time mum, my body has gone through big changes over the year and I am still waiting for it to settle into its new shape. As an adult and woman I am still figuring out how I like to dress. As a professional I am still finding my place. And as a maker I am still learning. This all takes some exploration, some trial and error, some time to hone in on.
Slow fashion is not only about the amounts of clothing I have. It is as also about having the right clothes, for me and for my lifestyle. Do I feel comfortable in my clothes? Do I have clothes that work together? Do I have clothes I want to wear and will want to repair when they need it?
Adding and subtracting clothes in a thoughtful and more sustainable way is my goal. Getting there is a journey.
Was 2017 a slow fashion year for me?
Well, it kind of was and it wasn't. I am thinking: mend more, buy less and enjoy the process of making.